From time to time, my wife and I consider the "foolish" idea of leaving our jobs (and, likely, careers) and taking a sizable chunk of time off from working, or at least working in the way we are now. Something like perhaps 2-3 years. The reason for the break would be to re-orient our lives better with our values, and, mostly to work on some ambitions that are not getting their full due attention in our current situation. These are quite personally important concerns, but are being allowed to get put indefinitely on the back burner while we just get through our day-to-day, week-to-week life. And this is even though we--unlike many workers these years it seems--actually do have the time to work on these things right now; it's just that we just don't feel we are in a good personal context/space/place to really be able to engage those ambitions as well as they deserve. In fact, the context is quite inappropriate for it, it feels to me.
The time off would certainly entail moving to another part of the U.S., finding as close to perfect location to set up shop on these ambitions, and then living off our savings and/or doing some small part-time work (one or both) or small entrepreneurship to bring in some money to partly or fully fund this (presumably cheap) life. We have enough savings to live off of--depending on the burn rate--for a few good years. With experience, I've come to conclude that nothing much can get done in one calendar year--at least by me!--so that is why I suggest a few years.
But we have not yet ever come close to making this break purely because of understandable financial caution. There are good reasons to be cautious or to be motivated to stay with what we have: We are currently both employed at the same employer, and save what I consider a healthy chunk of money each year, enough to put us on course for a decently funded retirement and a modest-but-paid-for house by the time we are at retirement age (provided inflation doesn't go bananas in the interim) in about 20 or so years. We also have health insurance through our employer and other benefits, which we would not have if unemployed.
Lastly, our career trajectories forward are anything but robust/reliable, so, whether we take a break or not, future earnings seem dicey from my current vantage--it's very hard for me to predict. I am also very loss averse, so it is painful to consider spending down what it took years to build up. For all these reasons, we have slogged on with our current situation while we have it. It could surely be worse, but there is this feeling that it is really not what we were "meant" to be doing and old saws about "On their deathbeds, no one ever says I wish I spent more time in the office," or "you don't want to be the richest man in the graveyard," or "Do what you love, the money will follow" ping around my head from time to time and make me wonder if this is currently a bad plan.
EDIT: Two answerable and related questions
- Is there a search engine searchable term(s) for this sort of action? (That is, is there a conventional way of describing such an action in the personal finances literature. I.e., we all know what a retirement is, but what is this?). If so, what is it?
- What are the key financial dangers in this action?